REVIEW: The Walking Dead 7.01 ‘The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be’ is traumatic viewing
We spent months waiting in our bunkers, chatting Negan murder theories and making bets on Glenn kicking the bucket, but all that time could never have been enough to prepare us emotionally for ‘The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be’.
It was not that the answer to the murder-mystery cliffhanger from last season was unexpected. The majority of fans and press got it right to some extent. The grisly deaths of Abraham and Glenn played only a supporting role in the episode’s narrative. ‘The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be’ is a masterfully woven depiction of a sadistic, torturous manipulator breaking his most defiant adversary’s spirit entirely.
Watching The Walking Dead‘s ‘hero’ be broken by Negan made for traumatic viewing. Together, we and Rick experienced all five stages of grief, rolled into one evening of the most brutal, abject horror. Meanwhile, Negan fulfilled the promise of being the series’ most heinous and unpredictable villain yet.
The episode began with denial. A shell-shocked Rick was taken to Negan’s caravan for a talk between leaders. It was fitting, though frustrating, that while Rick remained in this fugue that we learnt nothing more of what had just taken place.
It was testament to Rick Grimes’ character that he did not back down there and then, after the brutal murder of Abraham. He played along with the game, knowing every minute he wanted nothing more than to destroy Negan for what he had done. Even when Glenn became the second person to be beaten to a pulp, Rick remained defiant, rather than compliant. It led to the best scene of the episode – when Negan struck, for the third time, by using Carl.
Finally, we saw Rick lose it under the gravity of an impossible choice – wilfully mutilate his own son in a world where to do so will have severe consequences on his ability to survive, or the deaths of his entire group. The moment was heart-stopping television.
By the time Negan has left, there is utter nothingness to the character of Rick. At that moment, he is defeated. The change in Rick’s demeanour is perfectly encapsulated by the line he gives a vengeful Maggie: “They have an army. We would die – all of us.”
The old Rick would never have let something like superior numbers destroy his desire for revenge on a group and a man that has caused his friends such ill. Instead, he is almost meek. Negan has achieved what he set to do.
‘The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be’ was not the story I thought it would be five minutes before it aired. It was almost singularly devoted to creating Negan, a frightening and charismatic villain who requires the utmost subservience from his underlings, and contrasting him to the defiant, determined Rick. Their horribly immersive power dynamics were simultaneously a struggle to watch and impossible to stop watching.
Watching the darkness perpetuate Rick’s hope and belief system made for great, albeit very bleak, television in ‘The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be’. But our main question for the end of the episode is what can be next for our heroes if they are broken? Is Maggie leading a revenge mission? It doesn’t look like she’ll get many followers for her cause. Is the show still worth watching in the absence of hope?
If not, I would happily watch an entire series following Negan and the Saviours instead. Spin-off? Yes please.